GUIDE ON HOW TO READ YOUR SKINCARE INGREDIENTS: PART 1 (CLEANSERS)
Your skin is the largest organ of your body and it absorbs about 60% of what you put on it. It literally takes SECONDS for what you are putting on your skin to enter the bloodstream. The FDA does NOT regulate the cosmetic industry and there is no required testing on skincare products that are released to the market in the US. Actually, there are only 11 chemicals that have been banned for use in US cosmetics and over 1300 in the EU. Woah…..right???
Before I switched to natural products and started reading ingredients, I (like millions of other Americans) bought into the campaign marketing ads and fell into the trap that ‘it must be ok because it has been around forever and it probably goes through testing or else it wouldn’t be on the market, right?.’ Sound familiar?
Between work, life, family, and researching food ingredients that you are putting IN your body, you probably don’t have enough time to research every ingredient that you are putting ON your body, but guess what, this is my passion and I am here to help you.
THE FOUR BASICS YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Brands are always required to list their ingredients in the order of highest to lowest concentration.
- There are 4 good resources I use when looking at ingredients or when I am trying to figure out why they would be in a product.
- EWG Skin Deep Data Base: Amazing info analyzing individual ingredients as well as products. This is my go-to!
- Cosmetic Ingredients – This is a great overview when you want to check a specific brand.
- California Proposition List – Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. (Thank you California!)
- As mentioned, Europe has banned over 1300 ingredients to be used in cosmetics. They are all listed in here – the banned US ingredients can be found here. This is a great post to read if you want the highlighted most important banned ingredients in Europe, but not in the US.
- Dermatologist-tested and Hypoallergenic are NOT regulated terms and mean absolutely nothing!
- There is no standard controlled testing regulated by the FDA for dermatology testing. Any company can have a dermatologist test their product with 1, 2, 20 people and then slap on the label dermatologist-tested.
- There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean.
Before we go into the deep dive of actual products on the market, I do want to preface that this blog series, by no means, is not to bash other companies, it is meant to be an educational tool that I wish I had given to me a long time ago.
PART 1 OF OUR 3 PART SERIES: SCENARIO 1
I’m buying a ‘cleansing’ product, what’s the point of reading the ingredients? It is just soap and supposed to clean right?
- Commercial soaps are made with synthetic ingredients and detergents. Why is this bad? Detergents are can be very harsh and irritating and can strip your skin of it’s natural oils, requiring you to actually purchase more moisturizers for your skin. Some can be toxic to your skin. Why are they used? They do clean your skin but bottom line they are CHEAP ingredients, so it is a great profit margin for the large companies.
- Many commercial and some natural soaps on the market are made with Tallow. What is Tallow? Fatty deposits of animal fat (usually cow or sheep). I am not a vegetarian; however, washing my skin with animal fat doesn’t exactly sound sexy. In some cases, it has been known to clog pores. It is considered overall a safe ingredient and of course is typically cheaper than using high-quality vegetable oils for ingredients.
- Fragrance in soaps. Many of the soaps list fragrances as an ingredient. What is in a fragrance? It can be many synthetic ingredients that do not need to be disclosed. Most of these fragrances are not of high-quality and often contain phthalates. You can read more about phthalates in a recent blog post, but these are not something you want lurking around on your skin or breathing in, especially for your kiddos or if you are pregnant.
Let’s look at the ingredients in Dove’s Beauty Bar:
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate: Synthesized ingredient that can be irritating and drying to some skin types. Doesn’t appear to have any benefits of moisturizing or nourishing, just cleaning the skin.
Stearic Acid: Used to harden the soap and is a natural occurring fatty acid typically derived from animal fat.
Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmate: Sodium Tallowate comes from animal fat and Palmate comes from palm oil. It is not clear which one is in the bar soap or if they both are included. These oils are used for their cleansing purposes.
Lauric Acid: Naturally occurring fatty acid and if used in high percentages can be drying to your skin.
Sodium Isethionate: Synthetic detergent that creates a dense lather – known to be mild.
Sodium Stearate: Made my combining Stearic Acid and salt, used to help lubricating.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine: synthetic surfactant that gives it suds, can be irritating to the skin due to the actual ingredient or impurities in this ingredient. According to the EWG, cocamidopropyl betaine is often contaminated with nitrosamines, another chemical recognized as being a “possible carcinogen” and/or linked to strong evidence of causing cancer.
Sodium Cocoate Or Sodium Palm Kernelate: Gentle cleansers that contribute to the hardness and lather of the bar. Cocoate comes from Coconut Oil and Palm Kernelate comes from palm kernel oil.
Fragrance: This is a variety of chemicals and typically most likely contains phthalates.
Sodium Chloride: Salt – used as a thickening agent.
Tetrasodium Edta: Used as a preservative and a chealting agent – appears to have no benefits, but according toE WG’s Cosmetic Database it notes that this ingredient can cause cancer, enhanced skin absorption, organ system toxicity and irritation, due to animal studies that showed skin irritation at low doses.
Tetrasodium Etidronate – preservative made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide, used to prevent soap scum in the bath, known to irritate skin conditions such as eczema.
Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) – used to whitening agent and depending on the amount used could cause an irritation in some people.
On the website, Dove claims that this formula contains ¼ moisturizing cream to give you softer, smoother, more radiant looking skin vs. ordinary soap – I am not sure what ingredient(s) are part of the ‘moisturizing cream’.
To be honest, I previously used Dove soap before I learned about natural soap. I probably bought into their Real Beauty campaign that they spent +100 million dollars on – the aim of their ongoing campaign is to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves – which is very positive for women but it is actually DISTRACTING. I got wrapped into the campaign thinking their ingredients must be amazing and didn’t think to look at what I was actually using on my skin.
So you may be saying…ok…I get that Dove doesn’t have the best ingredients, but I saw Olive Oil soap at the Body Shop that is fairly cheap – that MUST be good right – I mean it contains olive oil??? Let’s take a look at the ingredients:
Body Shop Ingredients: Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Aqua, Glycerin, Parfum, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Olea Europaea Fruit Oil, Linalool, Citric Acid, Etidronic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, CI 77492, CI 77288, CI 77499.
Remember when I said that brands list the ingredients from highest concentration to lowest concentration? The actual olive oil in the soap is listed as the 8th ingredient and it is AFTER the parfum (fragrance). But if you look at this soap on their website they are marketing the olive oil and the benefits of it as opposed to the other preceding ingredients. So, why is this bad? First of all, fragrance is in the list BEFORE the olive oil and fragrances contain phthalates (unless otherwise stated) which are known to be toxic and are actually banned in Europe. Second of all, I am 99% sure based on my own formulating experience that you really aren’t getting any of the actual olive oil benefits given it appears to be in a very low concentration.
Ok…so tell me why Vilia Soap ingredients are better?
The big differences between Vilia Soap ingredients and the others:
- We use Extra Virgin (cold pressed) Greek Olive Oil and other pure vegetable oils, we don’t use synthetic ingredients that can often dry your skin. All olive oils are not created equal. There are different grades. Extra Virgin is the best for eating and for your skin because of all of the nutrients. Our olive oil comes straight from one family in Sparta, Greece and we have a great relationship with them. We actually use it on our food. So many oils on the market are adulterated and are not pure (often coming from Italy).
- Our soaps are scented with essential oils, not only to smell nice, but for you to get additional benefits as they target each skin type.
- You can see that olive oil is listed twice below (and is the FIRST ingredient). We even add additional olive oil during the last stages of the soap making process. This olive oil doesn’t actually turn into soap, it is added for additional moisturizing properties.
- Glycerin is not listed on the ingredients below – why? Glycerin is a by-product of the soap making process when you make natural soap – it isn’t something that we add, it is simply in the soap. Do you know the gooey part of bar soap when you let it sit? That is glycerin. Don’t ever rinse it off – it helps to maintain the water balance on your skin and locks in the moisture to sooth and soften your skin
- Our soap formula has been evaluated by one of the top UK cosmetic chemists and approved for safety to be sold in the EU (this is not required in the US). Why is this important? It ensures that you are getting a SAFE bar of soap.
Vilia Soap Activated Charcoal & Tea Tree Ingredients: Olive Oil (Sodium Olivate); Coconut oil (Sodium Cocoate); RSPO Palm oil (Sodium Palmate); Spring Water (Aqua), Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil; Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil; Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil; Activated Charcoal; natural occurring linalool, limonen
All of the above soaps do cleanse the skin but using VERY different ingredients. Whenever someone tells me they have dry skin, I always ask what soap they are using and quite often it is a mass produced soap that contains the detergents. If you are new to the natural world of skincare the first product I recommend to change over to is soap because it is used on the entire body (even ours is great for face) and it gives your skin a good moisturized foundation.
So, I hope that wasn’t too much of an information overload and it was helpful for you. Did anything surprise you? Was it helpful? I would love to know! Stay tuned for Part 2 – We will be diving into the details of moisturizers!